Originally created 02/03/01

Teen-ager gets wish to play in Pro-Am



PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Pebble Beach is a wish come true for 17-year-old golfer Ryan Ring.

Ring, the youngest player in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, has been fighting leukemia for about 3« years.

"I'm having a great time," he said, despite shooting a disappointing 80 in Friday's second round. "I just wish I was playing better."

The Make-A-Wish Foundation arranged for the Pleasanton, Calif., high school student to play in the tournament. He is paired with pro Casey Martin.

His family, an entourage of pals from school and his girlfriend cheer for him from the gallery. His father, Rick Ring, lends him advice on the greens.

"This is a family wish come true, too," said the elder Ring, the brother of former San Francisco 49ers running back Bill Ring.

Meredith Ring teased her brother as he signed autographs after his round Friday.

"You might want to work on that signature, Ryan!" she shouted.

Ring admitted he was a bit overwhelmed by all the attention he has attracted -- and the crowds at the fan-friendly tournament. High school players don't usually have galleries, he joked.

"It was a little fan thing," Ring theorized about his round. "I'm not used to it."

Soft-spoken and determined, Ring continued to play golf during years of draining chemotherapy treatments. His family lives on a golf course and he played on the Amador Valley High School's varsity team last year.

Martin said he's got the right stuff.

"Give him some time and some coaching and he has the potential to be a great player," Martin said.

Although Ring's leukemia is now in full remission, he said that he's a bit tired from five straight days of golf. His game suffered on the back nine at the Poppy Hills course, one of three courses used in the tournament.

"It's frustrating," he said. "My shots aren't happening."

Ring's father said a little fatigue and a bad round won't get his son down.

"When you look at what he's been going through -- a battle for his life -- this isn't that hard," the elder Ring said.

As if on cue, Ring announced he was headed to the driving range.

"If I play here again next year," he announced, "I'll definitely be more focused."

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[bf]BOMBS AWAY:[nf] Whenever Ken Griffey Jr. is on the course, no one in the gallery is safe.

The Cincinnati Reds' slugger plunked a fan with an approach shot, sent them scrambling into the trees with his tee shot, and left him ducking for cover with a bunker shot that sailed over the green.

His final approach at Poppy Hills came from the left rough, where he tried to hit a 2-iron through a couple of pine trees. He hooked it over the crowd's head, but it wound up close to the green after a few good hops on the cart path.

"I like to hit in the crowd," Griffey said with a smile. "Especially when they're between those two foul poles."

Griffey was paired with Mark O'Meara, and in the same foursome with Tiger Woods.

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[bf]NO CINDERELLA STORY:[nf] A bad day of golf doesn't keep Bill Murray from cracking jokes.

It was Day Two of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, on the 17th hole of the Poppy Hills course. Murray's ball sailed into a deep ravine.

The fellow amateur in his foursome, first baseman Mark Grace, implored the formidable gallery trailing the comedian to help.

"Bill's having a bad day, so show him some love," Grace begged.

On the next hole, Murray's putt from about five feet came to rest on the lip of the cup -- without falling. A fan offered: "We still love you, Bill."

Murray, who played the groundskeeper Carl in the movie "Caddyshack," smirked.

"It's over, man," he said. "Find somebody new."